Turlock Police detectives are trying to fill in the puzzle of what led to the fatal shooting of Dayron Ledezma at a sideshow two weeks ago and are pinning their hopes that a bystander might have the missing piece.
Sideshows were born in the 1980s in Oakland as a way to show off souped up cars and trucks in a format not far removed from the Graffiti culture celebrated in Modesto. As decades passed, sideshows morphed into a form that saw participants performing more stunts than cruising. Now, at a sideshow participants take over a particular area and perform stunts like spinning out around a crowd of onlookers. The spots taken over can vary from a parking lot to a deserted street to a busy intersection to a highway. Sideshows are typically organized via social media with the locations closely guarded. It’s an insular community with their own lexicon and breaking into it is a particular challenge for investigators on this case.
The locations may change but the one constant at any sideshow is that the participants and the watchers have hit the red record button on their cell phones to capture all the action. It is those videos, perhaps in the hundreds, that investigators are desperate to see.
“The fundamental challenge is that there were hundreds of people present at the sideshow and unbeknownst to them, they may have captured something on video that’s key to the investigation,” said Turlock Police Detective Brandon Bertram.
Detectives are making a public plea for people to upload any videos from the sideshow or from ones that happened earlier at other locations, with the hope that it could lead to an arrest of the shooter. To help facilitate the process, the police department has released a QR code and link to upload the videos, which can be used with relative anonymity.
Ledezma’s death punctuated a night of chaos on Turlock’s streets. Officers had already broken up one rowdy and confrontational crowd at a sideshow at South and Orange avenues. As the clock moved from Dec. 30 to Dec. 31 another sideshow was taking shape at the intersection of Fulkerth Road and Tegner Road and officers were once again called out to disperse the crowd, which by this time was well over 100 people.
Officers were just arriving at the intersection when gunshots punctured the noise of revving engines and squealing tires. A panicked crowd fled from the scene as officers made their way into the midst of the commotion. There they found Ledezma with a gunshot wound that proved fatal within mere moments.
A second gunshot victim was rushed from the scene to a nearby hospital for treatment. Later a third gunshot victim showed up at a hospital and investigators were able to connect the injury to the sideshow shooting.
Trying to corral witnesses at the scene proved to a challenge all of its own as vehicles fled in all directions. Now, two weeks removed from the shooting, the challenge to find the videos of the incident is proving to be just as evasive.
“There has been some hesitancy to speak with law enforcement because they were at this illegal sideshow,” Bertram said. “We want to let people know we are not concerned about their involvement in a sideshow. Our end goal is to solve something much more egregious than a sideshow. We are trying to bring justice to the victims and their families.”
The plea for videos extends beyond the sideshow at Fulkerth and Tegner. Investigators are hoping to see ones from earlier that evening in other nearby towns.
“They might not have any idea that they’ve recorded something of evidentiary value,” Bertram said.
Bertram is hopeful the public plea will provide the right impetus for people to take action, but even if it is not as successful as he hopes, he harbors no doubt that eventually someone will face charges for Ledezma’s death.
“We’re eventually going to have a successful prosecution of this case, even if it is through traditional investigative methods,” Bertram said. “However, the videos and images could be the essential evidence that could expedite this case to a rapid resolution.”
Videos and pictures can be uploaded at https://turlockpdca.evidence.com/.../public/turlocksideshow or by using the QR Code.